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Horse transactions Proper documentation important when buying and selling horses

Written by Gayle Smith

Having the proper paperwork when buying and selling horses is critical. If owners do not have title to a horse, they cannot legally sell it in Wyoming, according to Bill Fitzhugh, a Wyoming brand inspector.

“It is like selling a car. Would anyone sell a car without a title?” he asked.

Brand inspections

According to Wyoming law governing brand inspection, a change of ownership and brand inspection is required to buy and sell horses. Fitzhugh said if the horses are sold private treaty, Wyoming requires a change of ownership on every horse whether it is in or out of the county.

The brand inspector can provide a blue copy of the brand inspection to the new owner, which is recognized as the legal title to the animal in Wyoming, Colorado and Nebraska.

“When we do a brand inspection, there are several copies,” Fitzhugh explained of the process.

In some situations, like with cattle haulers, Fitzhugh gives the hauler the white copy to take with the animals, and the representative holds the blue copy until he is paid.

“Sometimes even banks hold the blue copy if the customer has borrowed money,” he noted.

Proof of title

Wyoming brand inspectors have three types of documents they can provide horse owners with as a proof of ownership title.

The first one is movement and change of ownership.

The second is a B form, which is given to people who purchase horses from a horse sale or salebarn.

The third, and the one Fitzhugh recommends, is the lifetime. This is assigned to an individual animal and is good for the horse’s lifetime.

“I’m not a salesman, but I push people to get lifetime proof of ownership because in two inspections, they will have it paid for,” he explained.

It also allows the owner to travel with the horse if the brand inspector is tied up and can’t get there.

Travel

Fitzhugh said Wyoming horses need a brand inspection, current Coggins test and a health certificate to travel out of state.

“A lifetime is title to a particular horse,” he said, “but if that horse is sold, the owner will need the blue copy to give to the brand inspector so he can do a change of ownership.”

The brand inspector cautions buyers to beware when purchasing horses private treaty that the owner has the blue copy, which is the only recognized title of ownership to the horse.

“If the seller won’t give the buyer title to the horse, don’t buy it,” he said. “We wouldn’t buy a car without a title. A horse is the same way. We should want the brand inspector there as well, so he can make sure the new owner is getting clear title to the horse.”

Before inspections

Fitzhugh also encouraged owners to have their horses prepared before the brand inspector comes.

“Have the horses caught,” he said.

The brand inspector has to draw the markings of the horse on the brand inspection papers, and some markings are challenging to draw.

“It is really hard to accurately draw those markings if the horse is out in the pasture,” he explained.

It is also important to have the horse tied.

“If there are five or six horses loose in a corral, it can get difficult to draw the markings accurately for each horse. Also, I have to keep one eye on the horses while I’m drawing.”

Fitzhugh shared a story where he was drawing the markings of one horse, and another came up behind him and picked him up by the collar and tried to carry him off.

Take caution

Fitzhugh said it is cheaper to get paperwork in order before selling a horse than getting caught without the correct paperwork.

While fines can trend up to $750 for repeat offenses, first time offenders commonly get a $220 fine.

“It is much cheaper to get the brand inspection, health certificate and Coggins test,” he said.

In Wyoming, health certificates are good for 30 days, and Coggins tests for a year, he added.

Gayle Smith is a correspondent for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..